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Boating Tragedy Has Lessons for All

In a tragic docking mishap several days ago, this bright young Australian was fatally injured.

© van Os family

Cruisers Jim and Emma Mather of the Redondo Beach-based Down East 45 Blue Sky alerted us to a horrible boating accident that occurred several days ago in Thailand, where they are currently cruising with their kids, Phoebe and Drake. As sad as it is, the Mathers feel there are valuable lessons to be learned from this tragic incident.

Australian Ali van Os, 16, was with her parents aboard a friend’s boat at Phuket’s Yacht Haven Marina when a monstrous ‘superyacht’ approached. She instinctively jumped up to have a closer look, but when the yacht surged into a wharf where she was standing she was struck in the head, apparently by a 4-inch hawser.

The vibrant teenager was rushed to Phuket’s Bangkok Hospital, where she is said to have received excellent care, but her head trauma and substantial blood loss apparently caused extensive brain damage. On Monday, Ali’s parents, author Joanne van Os and attorney Lex Silvester, reluctantly made the decision to turn off their daughter’s life support system.

Family friend Terri Robson was quoted as saying Ali was an "amazing young woman. . . one of those people that’s just so engaging. People were entranced by her."

Phoebe, Drake, Emma and Jim Mather crossed to French Polynesia in the spring of ’06, and have slowly been working their way west.

© Mather family

The Mathers were deeply saddened by the tragedy, as they had spent Christmas with the van Os/Silvester family, and had gotten to know Ali well. "She was a very special girl, and a person that will not be forgotten," explains Jim.

He asked us to spread the word to other boating parents so they can recognize the hazards of docking, and keep their children an appropriate distance away. "Our two children are still very small so it has always been our rule that they occupy themselves below deck when we are docking or anchoring. If Emma and I are assisting another boat to or from a dock, the children stand back (way back)." Blue Sky will soon depart Thailand and head west across the Indian Ocean.

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